Mallory Scheurer, a junior in the Eleanor Mann School of Nursing, is the first College of Education and Health Professions student to win a Morris K. Udall Scholarship. Photos by Russell Cothren
Nursing Student Focuses on Native American Heritage
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – A job waiting for Mallory Scheurer after her graduation from the Eleanor Mann School of Nursing will help her repay the Native American community that has supported her through college.
Scheurer, a junior from Stilwell, Okla., has already been involved in numerous service organizations on the University of Arkansas campus and in Northwest Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma. She is a leader in the Native American Student Association and recently was named a Morris K. Udall Scholar. Recipients of the Udall scholarship must show a commitment to issues related to Native American tribal policy.
A member of the Cherokee Nation, Scheurer wants to help tackle issues such as substance abuse and the health problems associated with it when she becomes a nurse. As a recipient of a scholarship from the Indian Health Service, Scheurer is required to work two years in a hospital operated by the federal program.
"My ultimate goal is to give back to the tribe since they have helped me so much," Scheurer said. "The many cases of addiction in my community have been devastating both financially and emotionally."
Scheurer serves as the vice president of the Native American Student Association and is helping to re-establish a powwow on campus. She has encouraged the group to be more active on campus, brought awareness about the Cherokee people to campus and around the community, and served as a mentor to other Native students.
"By informing other students about our presence in the community, we enable them to take this knowledge into their careers and become better prepared to assist and work with Native Americans in the future, understanding that we are a strong people who have a rich history and who have not only survived but are striving to become better," she said.
Scheurer is also a member of Gamma Sigma Sigma service sorority, serving on the fund-raising committee. She is a member of the Native American Art and Plant Society, the Indian Science and Engineering Society, and the Student Nurses Association. Since 2010, she has been a regular volunteer at the Fayetteville City Hospital and with the Peace at Home Women’s Shelter. For two years, she returned to her hometown of Stilwell each semester to assist at the Cherokee Nation food distribution center.
“The elders are the ones who benefit the most from me being there to help,” Scheurer explained. “They are the last holders of a dying language and are given great respect in the community.”
Scheurer also wants to help other Native people seek higher education.
“A lot of my friends and family turn to me when they have questions about going back to school and making a better life for themselves because they see me doing it and they want to do it, too,” she said. “It is also really important to me to help Native students who are already on campus and help create a community for them and bring cultural activities to campus.”
In the future, she expects to work both in a hospital setting and as a health educator in community programs, similar to her life as a student in which she attends class while also being involved in numerous service activities. Scheurer’s grandmother attended Haskell Indian Nations University and was a registered nurse at the W.W. Hastings Indian Hospital until she retired, and her uncle works for the Cherokee Nation, teaching Native Americans to become surgical technicians.
“I plan to create programs that specifically target substance abuse in Native Americans,” Scheurer said. “The programs will include support groups, Native American counselors, and activities that incorporate career and life skills.”
The Udall scholarship provides up to $5,000 during the scholar’s junior or senior year. In August, the class of 80 Udall scholars for 2012 will assemble in Tucson, Ariz., for the four-day scholar orientation, where they will receive their awards and meet policymakers and community leaders.
"I will meet all kinds of people, many representing Native Americans in health care," Scheurer said. "I think it will be inspiring to me."
The competition for the Udall Scholarship is incredibly fierce, said Suzanne McCray, director of the university’s office of nationally competitive awards.
“As a member of the national Udall scholarship review committee, reading for the northeast part of the country, I have seen firsthand just how amazing these students are," McCray said. "To receive this recognition, students have to show real commitment to a career related to Native American health and research into health conditions affecting Native American communities and a passion for making a significant difference. It’s a perfect fit for Mallory.”
Freddie Bowles, an assistant professor of foreign language education in the College of Education and Health Professions, has known Scheurer for three years because Bowles serves as faculty advisor to the Native American Student Association.
"Mallory is a remarkable person with a willingness to serve, a generous spirit, resilient attitude and the disposition for leadership," Bowles wrote in a letter to the Udall program.
She cited Scheurer's efforts to recruit members to the Native American Student Association and participation in events sponsored by the group both on and off campus.
"Mallory and her mother have shared their knowledge of basket weaving at our annual Friday Night Live events and at the District III Foreign Language Festival in Rogers," Bowles said. "Mallory's quiet demeanor, modesty and subtle sense of humor provide a strong foundation for her leadership abilities."
Scheurer is the first student from the College of Education and Health Professions to receive the award and the first University of Arkansas recipient since 2005.
“Mallory is the type of student who inspires her classmates and the faculty and staff who work with her,” said Tom Smith, dean of the College of Education and Health Professions. “She is a great example of a student who works very hard at academics but is also deeply involved in her community, both with the Native American Student Association on campus and through her service to others.”
Scheurer plans to attend graduate school for nurse anesthesia, obtaining license as a certified registered nurse anesthetist.
“The Eleanor Mann School of Nursing is proud and excited to have our first student to receive this prestigious honor,” said Nan Smith-Blair, director of the nursing school. “Mallory’s strong interest and commitment to the health issues of Native Americans is a perfect match with the opportunity of being a Udall Scholar. This opportunity will allow her to develop her skills and knowledge to help promote health in the Native American population.”
In her application for the Udall scholarship, Scheurer expressed her desire to educate other nurses about the needs of her people.
"I will be a key factor in helping educate other nurses about the specific needs of our people since we are one of the most underrepresented ethnic groups in (nursing) organizations," she wrote, referring to a statistic that only .3 percent of nearly 3 million licensed registered nurses in the United States are Native American. "Also, I will help bridge the gap between my underserved community and hospitals that are ahead by bringing the most up-to-date techniques and services."